C20 – Good Afternoon Grandpa
Both of them were drenched in sweat after enduring this ordeal. Zuo Shaoqing was determined not to lay eyes on it, so he certainly had no intention of repeating the process of cleansing Zuo Shaoqing’s body.
“The homecoming examination is approaching, and I fear I won’t have the time to bring you morning sustenance,” Zuo Shaoqing began. However, before he could finish, he was met with uproarious laughter. “Hahahaha!” “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!” Zuo Shaoqing puffed up his chest, yet he lacked the courage to make Young Duke Lu go hungry.
Astonishingly, Lu Zheng, the most esteemed individual in all of Great Yang, readily agreed without any complications, rendering Zuo Shaoqing’s prepared speech entirely unnecessary.
“Then… Brother, rest early and come back tonight.”
“Bring a roast chicken.”
Zuo Shaoqing narrowed his eyes, smiling as he saluted. With a genuine tone, he expressed, “I will consult the physician about your preferences later. Your brother is severely injured, after all. I hope you don’t mind.” As for the roast chicken, you can forget about it today; I’ve decided to bring you some steamed buns!
If Young Duke Lu dared to bring up such a request again, Zuo Shaoqing would directly inform him of their family’s financial difficulties, sparing no embarrassment. It was, after all, the reality until yesterday.
The banknotes that Zuo Second Master had given them remained their shared secret, one they tacitly kept.
After waiting for a while without hearing Lu Zheng’s response, Zuo Shaoqing focused his gaze and discovered that the person had already closed his eyes, completely disregarding his presence.
Zuo Shaoqing wasn’t genuinely troubled by Lu Zheng’s requests. The more demands he made, the greater the debt Zuo Shaoqing felt he owed. Though disgruntled, he would record these requests on a list, intending to recover them in the future.
However, Lu Zheng’s demeanor was perplexing. Was it an obligation to fulfill his desires? Zuo Shaoqing’s heart brimmed with resentment, thinking, “No wonder I’m subjected to this treatment with such an unpleasant character!”
Upon swiftly returning to the Zuo’s Mansion, Zuo Shaoqing directed Luo Xiaoliu to bring additional hot water. Before Nanny Liu could rise, he immersed himself in a soothing hot bath.
Yesterday, despite purchasing a multitude of items, it still seemed insufficient. He definitely needed to arrange for a chamber pot for Lu Zheng, so that he wouldn’t face difficulties when needing to relieve himself in his absence.
Following a night of contemplation, Luo Xiaoliu had concluded that the master of his household must be keeping a concubine. Otherwise, why would he need to procure these items daily? He couldn’t imagine that the clothing, shoes, and socks he bought could actually be intended for anyone else in the household.
Just as he exited his quarters, Luo Xiaoliu collided with Master Zuo’s presence. Swiftly, he bowed and greeted, “Good afternoon!”
In the past, when Third Master was not in this state, the individuals Luo Xiaoliu feared most were the lady of the house and the master himself. The former always made him anxious, while the latter sent shivers down his spine.
“If I’m not staying in my room to attend to your master, then where do you think you’re going?” Zuo Shaoyang’s deep voice resonated overhead.
Luo Xiaoliu rolled his eyes and replied, “Reporting to Master, Third Master expressed a desire for roasted chicken from De Sheng Lou, and asked me to procure it.”
“Is that something he can eat right now?” There’s no need to go; have the kitchen prepare a stew with an old hen,” Zuo Shaoyang declared before entering the room, paying no further attention to the attendant.
Huh? Nervously, Luo Xiaoliu raised his gaze to see Lord Zuo walking away. He couldn’t help but feel regretful, thinking, “If only I had known, I wouldn’t have agreed to fetch roasted chicken. How much easier it would have been to purchase a plum!”
His footsteps felt weighed down, as if he was dragging leaden feet. He first headed to the kitchen to relay the master’s instructions before returning to the courtyard.
Zuo Shaoqing had been keenly aware of the commotion outside. Upon Zuo Shaoyang’s entry into the room, he immediately struggled to rise from the bed, inquiring, “Why is Big Brother here?”
“Don’t move! Lie back!” Zuo Shaoyang briskly approached the bedside, gently guiding Zuo Shaoqing to recline.
Zuo Shaoqing, who had been feigning weakness, settled onto the soft pillow and held his wound, coughing twice. “You don’t need to worry, Brother. The doctor mentioned that I can get out of bed in two days.”
Initially, Zuo Shaoqing had intended to remain in bed until the provincial exam. However, circumstances had shifted. With the need to attend to Lu Zheng late into the night, he had persuaded the old doctor to reconsider, allowing him to postpone his recovery by a couple of days.
“Seeing your pallor, it’s advisable for you to rest a bit longer. We wouldn’t want you to harbor any lingering health issues,” Zuo Shaoyang remarked.
Zuo Shaoqing gazed at him with gratitude. Then, his tone took on a note of concern. “Thank you, Brother! But I’m worried about the provincial exam, which is just around the corner. I’m not sure if my body will hold up until the end.”
The provincial examination spanned four stages: ‘Classics of the Four Books and Five Classics,’ ‘Schemes,’ and ‘Poetry.’ Each phase demanded three days, and students lacking endurance often fainted in the dorms.
When the topic surfaced, Zuo Shaoqing noticed a fleeting shadow in Zuo Shaoyang’s eyes. It was understandable—his elder brother was approaching his twenties, having spent five years in high school without advancing to the capital for the exams. How could he not feel a sense of frustration, burdened with scholarly toil?
It came as no surprise that Zuo Shaoyang was going to great lengths to secure his future. Nevertheless, all these years of tedium had worn down his patience.
In this life, since he was so unfeeling in the past, there was no need for self-reproach. Zuo Shaoyang, in this lifetime, was fated to forego an official position.
“You’re still quite young, and your health should be your top priority. Even if it takes another three years, you’ll only be sixteen. Don’t stress too much,” Zuo Shaoyang assured him.
Zuo Shaoqing’s lips curled into a radiant smile. He warmly clasped Zuo Shaoyang’s hand, resembling a young man nurtured by his elder’s care. “Big Brother said it’s merely a trial for us. The outcome isn’t everything.”
Once the examination concluded, he planned to astonish the Zuo family with a delightful surprise. The youngest High Scholar in the Zuo clan would turn out to be an unanticipated concubine.